When you look at the gorgeous landscape and tapestry surrounding Pixar’s “Coco”, it can almost feel like a very vivid dream. With beautifully vivid colors, crazy architecture, hairless dogs, and talking skeletons, I guess, it truly can feel like a fever dream. And, at least in the case of the alebrijes, it kinda is.
When Disney invited a few bloggers up to Pixar to explore the world of “Coco”, there were many things I already knew about or had seen in my own home. I’m half Mexican (other half Peruvian, which honors the day but doesn’t celebrate it), so celebrating Dia de los Muertos has become an annual celebration full of colors, flowers, candles, food and more. But I had never seen an alebrije before, and not only did I get to learn about them and why they are in the film, but I got to make my own!
Alebrijes are an art form created by Pedro Linares. Linares claimed to have been having a fever dream when an brightly colored creature appeared to him. When he awoke, he recreated that creature that went on to become part of Mexican folk art. The creatures are created by combining different animal body parts and colors, and adding bright, vivid colors and designs. They are not part of the Dia de Muertos celebrations, but the Pixar team wanted to infuse real Mexican art into the film, and thus Pepita, the spirit guide was born.
We did get a chance to paint our own Pepita, and I am still adding a few extra touches to add her to my oferenda this year. I can’t say much more about Pepita other than I love her, and would like her for my own, and so will you!
Now, I have always been a dog lover, but have to admit thought I have seen Xoloitzcuintli dogs, aka Xolos, I didn’t know much about them, and we got a quick lesson (but no, no Xolos were given to us- boooo).
Xolos are one of the world’s oldest and rarest dogs that are said to have originated in Mexico during the Aztec Empire. Their name is derived from the name of the Aztec Indian god, Xolotl, and itzcuintli, the Aztec word for “dog.” Now, in “Coco”, Dante, the xolo, is a street dog. However, in reality, xolos are extremely valuable and would not be roaming the streets as they are a very expensive breed and are said to have “healing powers” because of the warmth of their skin and were held sacred to the ancient Aztec civilization.
“Dante” may be a xolo, but he’s his own character. For one, his tongue is always hanging out to the side, which the Pixar team decided to give him more of a personality than being just a street dog. Also, because Dante is hairless, the animators had to add in wrinkles, splotches and mostly skin stimulation to his structure. He’s Miguel’s best friend, and will become one of the classic sidekicks in animation.
Want to know more about Pepita the alebrije and Dante the Xolo? Go see “Coco” in theaters on November 22!